Cytochrome C in Patients with Septic Shock

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Cytochrome c is an essential component of the electron transport chain, and circulating cytochrome c might be an indicator of mitochondrial injury. The objective of this study was to determine whether cytochrome c levels are elevated in septic patients, whether there is an association between cytochrome c levels and lactate/inflammatory markers, and whether elevated levels of cytochrome c are associated with poor outcomes.


This was a single-center, prospective, observational, pilot study within a randomized, placebo-controlled trial. We enrolled adult patients in septic shock and with an elevated lactate (>3 mmol/L). Blood was collected at enrollment and at 12 and 24 h thereafter. Cytochrome c was measured in plasma using an electrochemiluminescence immunoassay.


We included 77 patients. Plasma cytochrome c levels were significantly higher in septic patients than in healthy controls (0.70 ng/mL [quartiles: 0.06, 1.99] vs. 0.19 ng/mL [quartiles: 0.03, 1.32], P = 0.008). Cytochrome c levels at enrollment were positively correlated with lactate levels (rs = 0.40, P < 0.001) but not with inflammatory markers. Patients who died before hospital discharge had significantly higher cytochrome c levels than survivors (0.99 ng/mL [quartiles: 0.36, 4.09] vs. 0.58 ng/mL [quartiles: 0.03, 1.64], P = 0.01). When analyzed over time, the difference between survivors and nonsurvivors remained significant (P < 0.001).


Cytochrome c levels are higher in septic patients than in controls. In unadjusted analysis, septic nonsurvivors had higher cytochrome c levels than survivors.

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